Sunday, February 10, 2019
In early 2004, I remember sitting in my office at St. John's and getting a call from Mark Sargent asking if I wanted to participate in a new blog that he and Rick Garnett were putting together. I was not entirely sure what a "blog" was, but as a junior law prof looking for any platform that would have me, I readily accepted his invitation. My primary objective in my early posts was to come across as knowledgeable enough about Catholic legal theory to belong on a blog dedicated to Catholic legal theory. As the years went by, I'm not sure my grasp of what we mean by "Catholic legal theory" became a whole lot clearer. My favorite post of the last fifteen years ("Catholic Legal Thought: Live at the Dubliner!"), though, reflects what is undoubtedly the central legacy of MoJ in my own life: relationships.
Since I composed that post ten years ago, law schools have gone through some tumultuous times, prompted by legitimate skepticism about the value proposition of legal education, causing us to focus on student outcomes to an extent not seen in many years, if ever. Does that mean that the broader Catholic legal theory project from which MoJ emerged has lost some energy? Perhaps, if measured by the number of conferences and colloquia dedicated to the field. But not if we take a broader view to ask how and why Catholic legal education matters - a question that can only be answered comprehensively and coherently with at least some resort to Catholic legal theory, as lived out in the context of academic and professional communities. What are we offering to prospective students and other stakeholders, and why should they care that we're Catholic? In that sense, MoJ has been a remarkable incubator of the type of conversations - and resulting relationships - that both aim at, and reflect, the heart of the project. Whether that continues in the form we've enjoyed for the past fifteen years or proceeds into new venues, the relationships must remain central to the work.